Originally created 05/26/06

Iraq victory is near; let's not blow it



With roadside bombs and surprise attacks, jihadists killed nearly 20 Iraqis and injured many more in and around Baghdad last weekend.

Yet the insurgency suffered one of its harshest defeats ever.

Why? Because five months after parliamentary elections, the Iraqi people finally got the unity government they've been waiting for, thanks to the leadership of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Al-Maliki's democratic unity government is seen by both supporters and enemies as the best chance to change the dynamics of violence and death that has been plaguing the country ever since the U.S.-led coalition brought down the Saddam Hussein regime three years ago.

Consider the choices the Iraqi people have now. They can be governed by democratically elected leaders who will seek to provide them with physical and economic security, progress toward basic government services and a climate of peaceful diplomatic comity with their Middle East neighbors and the rest of the non-terrorist world.

Or they can be governed by jihadist and sectarian terrorists who would rule by fear, oppression, murder and torture - a tyranny possibly worse than Saddam's. What's significant about this past weekend's developments is that despite the death and violence, Iraq took another giant step toward civilized government.

Hence, there's no doubt about how the Iraqis prefer to be governed. As President Bush said in welcoming the watershed event, "The terrorists can kill the innocent, but they cannot stop the advance of freedom."

Al-Maliki got parliament to approve all his Cabinet picks, although two of the most sensitive posts - defense and interior ministries - are still unfilled. But he's got the right plan on how to make those security appointments - select trustworthy, independent candidates with no strong ties to any armed militia or partisan political groups.

The new prime minister also has his priorities right - to end the bloodshed and sectarian violence. We're sure he'll succeed too, because he clearly has the backing of the Iraqi people, though he'll still need the help of U.S. troops to do it.

There's simply no way the terrorists can win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people by attacking and killing them. Indeed, the only way they can win is to propagandize the American people into believing the war is a hopeless cause and it's time to cut-and-run. Sadly, more and more Americans are coming to believe that - and they couldn't be more wrong.

It would be one of history's greatest tragedies if Bush-bashing Americans, blinded by their hatred for the president, succeed in turning U.S. public opinion against the war just as the tide is turning in democratic Iraq's favor. Compassionate, freedom-loving Americans must not let anti-Bush hate-mongers snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.